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Cars | Perspective

As a smooth, strong, comfortable station wagon, the A4 earns an A-plus

By Warren Brown

April 14, 2017 at 1:30 PM

The A4 Premium Plus is a good, old-fashioned station wagon updated, according to trim level purchased, with driver-assistance technology and other advanced electronic safety aids, Warren Brown writes.(Audi/Audi)

It is a wagon — a direct descendant in layout and function of the venerable station wagon. It is not a crossover or sport-utility vehicle, although it is sold only with all-wheel-drive. These things are important to know in terms of buyer expectations.

The Audi A4 wagon, with modest cosmetic and important technical changes for 2017, is a good town-and-country wagon that can carry five people and lots of their stuff. It can travel off-road on dirt, gravel and wet grass. It performs wonderfully on rain-slicked paved roads.

Favored with warm, mostly bright early spring weather, I did not have the challenge of driving this one in snow. But the 2017 A4 wagon largely is based on the Audi A4 sedan, which I did drive in snow, and which works perfectly.

For 2017, there are modest cosmetic changes to the wagon’s front fascia — a revised grille and snazzy LED headlamps. More important, there is a new engine — a turbocharged (forced air) 2.0-liter, gasoline four-cylinder model that delivers a maximum 252 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque.

You can run this one on less costly premium-plus (89 octane) gasoline. But I’d follow the owner’s manual and use the “recommended” premium grade “for best performance.”

The wording is a bit of a marketing ruse. “Recommended” is different from “required,” the latter often applied to vehicles with high-performance engines. “Recommended” speaks more to the buyer’s ego. To wit: You paid a lot of money for that A4 wagon (as much as $51,400 plus taxes, fees and various other add-ons); you think you’ve bought something with an engine to match.

It’s understandable.

You did buy a wagon with a very smooth, strong engine — 0 to 60 miles per hour in about 6 seconds, assuming that is a matter of tremendous importance to you.

But, er, you bought a station wagon — a lingering but still necessary breed in a world overrun by pickup trucks, sport-utility and crossover-utility vehicles, all strategically separated into performance, high-performance, “affordable” and luxury models.

The 2017 Audi A4 wagon is not a performance machine, as such. It is a good, old-fashioned station wagon updated, according to trim level purchased, with driver-assistance technology and other advanced electronic safety aids.

You aren’t driving this one to compete at the Virginia International Raceway. You are going to a nearby shopping center or big-box store. For that, you don’t really need high-performance gasoline. Read between the lines. Save money. Buy 89-octane gasoline.

This is what I meant by buyer expectations. If you expect the A4 wagon to carry you over rocks, through deep mud and across-fast-flowing streams because it is adorned with Audi rings, think again. If you are looking for first-place finishes at VIR in an Audi wagon, stop looking.

The 2017 Audi A4 wagon is a wagon, probably one of the best wagons ever conceived and manufactured to serve as a wagon. I like it.

Bottom line: The Audi A4 wagon serves well the family of five that wants a safe, comfortable, reliable ride that is good on long drives and could be garaged in places such as the District of Columbia or New York without an attached “SUV fee.”

Head-turning quotient: It looks like a station wagon. The interior is well-crafted, shades of the A4 sedan.

Body style/layout: The 2017 Audi A4 wagon is a front-engine, all-wheel-drive wagon slightly changed from the 2016 model, outfitted with a new turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engine, largely based on the Audi A4 sedan. There are three trim levels — Premium, Premium Plus and Prestige.

Engine/transmission: The A4 wagon comes with a new, turbocharged 2.0-liter, 16-valve inline four-cylinder gasoline engine with variable valve timing. The engine is linked to a seven-speed automatic transmission that also can be operated manually.

Safety: Standard equipment includes four-wheel disc brakes, ventilated front and solid rear; four-wheel anti-lock brake system; emergency braking assistance; pre- and post-collision safety systems; stability and traction control; side and head air bags; blind-spot warning accident avoidance system.

Pricing: The 2017 Audi A4 Premium Plus wagon starts at $51,400. The price as tested is $57,025, including an estimated $4,725 in options and a $900 factory-to-dealer shipment charge.

Note: Wagons are not the most fashionable vehicles today. You can bargain.

Nuts & Bolts

2017 Audi A4 Premium Plus wagon

Warren Brown is a columnist who writes about autos for The Washington Post.

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